On Board the OSV BOLD: Sunset on the Puerto Rico Survey

For more than a month, EPA’s Ocean Survey Vessel (OSV) Bold is studying the health of the waters around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. EPA scientists and non-scientists will blog about their research and what it’s like to live and work at sea.

Feb. 21, 2009 – 6 p.m. (Day 13)

About the Author: Doug Pabst is the chief scientist for the OSV BOLD’s Puerto Rico voyage. He leads the dredging, sediments and oceans team in EPA Region 2, comprising New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

We left Mayaguez yesterday at 6:00 a.m. and headed back to La Parguera to finish the sediment sampling, but the weather was too rough for small boat operations. The combination of the Trade Winds (Trades) and local thermal winds was producing rough seas and winds in excess of 25 knots (29 miles per hour).

The Trades are easterly flowing winds found in the tropics and get their name because of their importance to18th century England’s trade route crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Thermal winds are caused by the sun heating the air causing it to move fast and in some cases furiously. The combination of Trades and thermals made our sampling very difficult as we can only sample during the day with our small boats. Weather was our main obstacle for the survey and seemed to challenge us at every turn.

By 7:30 a.m. today, the Trades and thermal winds had diminished down to less than 10 knots (12 miles per hour). Our two small boats continued working until 9:30 a.m., when the winds picked up to 25 knots (29 miles per hour). Conditions were difficult and we were only able to collect a few more samples. We returned to the OSV BOLD to retrieve the small boats. We left anchor at noon and headed back to the “barn” (the home port of operations) in San Juan. As we left, winds were gusting over 40 knots (46 miles per hour). It’s frustrating when we are unable to achieve all our objectives, but the weather is one variable that is well beyond our control.

Our attention now focuses on de-mobilizing from our two week mission. We’re packing up our sampling equipment, supplies, and samples so they can be shipped back to our base of operations in New Jersey. It’s time to process the information we collected. We achieved most of our objectives, formed new partnerships, and return with high quality data. As the sun sets on our mission, it will rise over the next phase of the OSV BOLD’s Caribbean Mission with a new survey team beginning on February 23 in the Virgin Islands.

image of sunset over waterIt’s hard to say goodbye to paradise, but I leave with the satisfaction that we have collected information that will provide for the further protection of Puerto Rico’s environment for many more sunrises and sunsets.